MotoGP is back in Austin, but while the attendees may have been excited to see their favorite riders back on the Texas tarmac, the same feeling was not shared for many of the riders during practice and qualifying on Day One of MotoGP at Circuit of the Americas.
While the rain held out for mostly all of the qualifying runs, many riders were left literally in the dust as a recent resurfacing of the track caused a large amount of debris, sand and dust to be kicked up during runs. Most riders complained about the dust during the back straight leading into Turn 12, comparing it to the dusty days during racing in Qatar.
Jack Miller of the #43 bike compared it to his old racing days. “I don’t wanna be negative but it’s definitely worse than it was last year,” he said, during a press conference, as covered by Charles Bradley of Motorsport.com. “The track I thought was fine last year, but this year she’s turned into a bit of a motocross track.” Miller also added that his windscreen was damaged and cracked from the force of debris hitting him and his bike during his practice runs.
Others worried that the impending (but luckily notwithstanding) rain would cause a mucky situation with the remaining dirt and debris on the track’s surface. COTA officials are looking into the matter.
During the second qualifying round for GP, #93 Mark Marquez was found to be blocking another rider near Turn 15 by being “intentionally slow on the racing line,” according to the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel. Because of this, Marquez lost his pole position to #25 Maverick Viñales, even with a second faster qualifying time of 2.03.658. Viñales will start on the pole for tomorrow’s race.
This isn’t the first time Marquez has been penalized at COTA. Back in 2010, he was eventually pushed back to 10th overall after he was found to be cutting too many corners around Turns 3 and 4, causing an overall penalty of around 20 seconds.
However, he still seems determined to win again at COTA as he did in 2017. But, as the records also show, Viñales was very close in qualifying in 2017 with yet again only a second difference. History may repeat itself here in Austin, Texas.